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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Hope for Chemotherapy-Induced Hair Loss

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Ten months of chemotherapy shrunk the tumor but "I lost my pony tail. My hair kept getting thinner and thinner and finally last fall I had to resort to scarves and turbans," she says. In December, she decided to cut her hair "very, very short and let it go natural," she says. Although the hair loss and subsequent severe coif caused a "major identity crisis," LaRocque is now looking forward to returning to her job as an estate planner and financial advisor in San Francisco.

Hait says that it would be interesting to test the drug's effectiveness against Taxol. Davis counters by saying that "rats given Taxol don't lose their hair, but we did test the compound on rats treated with [two other cancer drugs], which do cause alopecia totalis." He says the compound was just as efficacious in those rats as well.

Here's how the gel works. Chemotherapy attempts to kill cancer cells but because the cells of healthy growing hair behave in much the same way as cancer cells, they get killed too. By spreading the gel on the scalp, the compound can offer short-term protection to the hair follicles while not interfering with the cancer-killing potential of the chemotherapy drugs, says Davis. He says that the gel is applied before chemotherapy is given and then washed off after chemotherapy. "The duration of action of the compound is 24 hours," he says. Because the gel is on the scalp for such a brief period, "there are no observable cosmetic affects on the hair. There is neither less hair, nor more hair," he says.

He says that the rat studies of the compound found that it had no harmful effect on the skin and the company is now proceeding with plans for a human study.

 

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